Marillion are a British rock group. Formed in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, England in 1979, their recorded studio output comprises fifteen albums and is generally regarded as comprising two distinct eras, delineated by the departure of original vocalist & frontman Fish in late 1988 after their first four albums, and the subsequent arrival of replacement Steve Hogarth ("h") in early 1989. Marillion has thus far released eleven albums with Hogarth.
The core lineup of Steve Rothery (the sole 'pre-Fish' original member), Pete Trewavas, Mark Kelly and Ian Mosley is unchanged since 1984. The band has enjoyed critical and commercial success with a string of UK Top Ten hits spanning their career, an estimated fifteen million total worldwide album sales and even an entry into the Guinness Book of World Records.
The band's music has changed stylistically throughout their career. The band themselves have stated that each new album tends to represent a reaction to the preceding one, and for this reason their output is difficult to 'pigeonhole'. Their original sound (with Fish on vocals) is best described as guitar and keyboard led progressive rock or "neo-prog", and has sometimes been compared with 1970's era Genesis.
Marillion are widely considered within the industry to have been one of the first mainstream acts to have fully recognised and tapped the potential for commercial musicians to interact with their fans via the Internet circa 1996, and are nowadays often characterised as a rock & roll 'Web Cottage Industry'.. The history of the band's use of the internet is described by Michael Lewis in the book Next: The Future Just Happened as an example of how the internet is shifting power away from established elites, such as record producers.
The band is also renowned for having an extremely dedicated following with some fans regularly travelling significant distances to attend single gigs, driven in large part by the close fan base involvement which the band cultivate via their website, podcasts, bi-annual conventions and regular fanclub publications.
Steve Hogarth (aka "h") - vocals and lyrics, additional keyboards, guitars, percussion (joined 1989)
Steve Rothery - electric and acoustic guitars - Founding member (1979)
Pete Trewavas - bass guitars, backing vocals, additional guitars, samples and effects (joined 1982)
Mark Kelly - keyboards, samples and effects, backing vocals, programming (joined 1981)
Ian Mosley - drums, percussion (joined 1984)
Fish (Derek W. Dick) - vocals and lyrics (left in 1988)
Mick Pointer - drums (Founding member - left 1983)
Diz Minnett - bass guitars - left 1982
Brian Jelliman - keyboards - left 1981
Doug 'Rastus' Irvine - bass guitars, lead vocals - left 1980
The Fish era
(see also Marillion discography (Fish era))
Marillion was formed in 1979 as Silmarillion, after J.R.R. Tolkien's book The Silmarillion, by Mick Pointer, Steve Rothery, and others. They played their first gig at Berkhamsted Civic Centre on .
The band name was shortened to Marillion in 1981 to avoid any sort of copyright conflicts at the same time as Fish and bassist Diz Minnitt joined after an audition at Leyland Farm Studios in Buckinghamshire on . Rothery and keyboardist Brian Jelliman completed the first line-up; the first gig with this line-up was at the Red Lion Pub in Bicester on . By the end of 1981, Kelly had replaced Jelliman, with Trewavas replacing Minnitt in 1982.
The early works of Marillion contained Fish's poetic and introspective lyrics melded with a complex and subtle musical tapestry to create a sound that reflected the band's influences, notably Queen, early Genesis, Pink Floyd, Van der Graaf Generator, Rush (specifically from the late 1970s), and Yes. Marillion's first recording was a demo tape produced by Les Payne in July 1981 that included early versions of "He Knows You Know", "Garden Party", and "Charting the Single".
The group attracted attention with a three-track session for the Friday Rock Show (early versions of "The Web", "Three Boats Down from The Candy", and "Forgotten Sons") and were subsequently signed by EMI. They released their first single, "Market Square Heroes", in 1982, with the epic song "Grendel" on the B-side of the 12" (30cm) version. Following the single, the band released their first full-length album in 1983.
The music on their debut album, Script for a Jester's Tear, was born out of the intensive gigging of the previous years. Although it had some obvious progressive rock stylings, it also had a darker edge, suggested by the bedsit squalour on the album's cover. During the tour to promote Script for a Jester's Tear, Mick Pointer left the band. The second album, Fugazi, built upon the success of the first album with a more electronic sound and produced the single 'Assassing', although the band encountered numerous production problems.
Marillion then released their first live album, Real to Reel, in November 1984, featuring songs from Fugazi and Script for a Jester's Tear, as well as 'Cinderella Search' (B-side to 'Assassing'), recorded in March and July 1984.
Marillion with Fish (1986)
Their third and commercially most successful studio album, Misplaced Childhood, was quite possibly their most cohesive work. With the blessing of their record company, the band was free to depart stylistically from their previous albums. They were able to showcase their ability to juxtapose pert pop ballads ("Kayleigh", charting at #2 in the United Kingdom, behind charity fundraiser "You'll Never Walk Alone" by The Crowd)) with longer song cycles of lost youth and first loves. The album went to #1 in the United Kingdom.
The fourth studio album, Clutching at Straws, shed some of its predecessor's pop stylings and retreated into a darker exploration of excess, alcoholism, and life on the road, representing the strains of constant touring that would result in the departure of Fish to pursue a solo career. It did continue the group's commercial success, however; lead single "Incommunicado" charted at #6 in the UK charts gaining the band an appearance on 'Top of the Pops'. The loss of the larger-than-life Fish left a hole that would be difficult to fill. After lengthy legal battles, informal contact between Fish and the other four band members apparently did not resume until 1999.
Although reportedly now on good personal terms, both camps had always made it very clear that the oft-speculated-upon reunion would never happen. However, when Fish headlined the 'Hobble on the Cobbles' free concert in Aylesbury's Market Square on , the attraction of playing their debut single in its spiritual home proved strong enough to overcome any lingering bad feeling between the former band members, and Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, and Trewavas replaced Fish's backing band for an emotional encore of 'Market Square Heroes'.
In a press interview following the event, Fish denied this would lead to a full reunion, saying that: "Hogarth does a great job with the band. We forged different paths over the 19 years."
Trivia from the Fish era album covers
Two early Marillion albums contain Pink Floyd references in their cover artwork:
The back cover of Script for a Jester's Tear depicts Pink Floyd's album A Saucerful of Secrets lying on the floor, along with other records including Bill Nelson's Do You Dream In Colour single. The other records depicted were Marillion's own singles, "Market Square Heroes" and "He Knows You Know"
The inside cover of Fugazi shows a bedroom in disorder. There we find another set of influential albums scattered about: Pink Floyd's The Wall lies open, with Peter Hammill's Over and Fool's Mate nearby. Hammill is a major influence on Fish, and on the musical style of Marillion's first two albums. Hammill also supported Marillion on the UK leg of the Script for a Jester's Tear tour.
Cover art from the Fish era was furnished by Mark Wilkinson.
The Steve Hogarth era
After the split, the band found Steve Hogarth, the former keyboardist and sometime vocalist of The Europeans. Hogarth stepped into a difficult situation, as the band had already recorded some demos of the next studio album, which eventually would have become Seasons End.
After Fish left the group (taking his lyrics with him), Hogarth set to work crafting new lyrics to existing songs with lyricist and author John Helmer. The demo sessions of the songs from Seasons End with Fish vocals and lyrics can be found on the bonus disc of the remastered version of Clutching at Straws, while the lyrics found their way into various Fish solo albums such as his first solo album, Vigil In a Wilderness of Mirrors, some snippets on his second, Internal Exile and even a line or two found its way to his third album, Suits.
Hogarth's second album with the band, Holidays In Eden, was the first he wrote in partnership with the band, and includes the song "Dry Land" which Hogarth had written and recorded in a previous project with the band How We Live. As quoted from Steve Hogarth, "Holidays in Eden was to become Marillion's ???pop???est album ever, and was greeted with delight by many, and dismay by some of the hardcore fans". However, it was followed by Brave, a dark and richly complex concept album that took the band 18 months to release. The album also marked the start of the band's long time relationship with producer Dave Meegan. While critically acclaimed, the album did poorly commercially. An independent film based on the album, which featured the band, was also released.
The next album, Afraid Of Sunlight would be the band's last album with record label EMI. One track of note on the album is Out Of This World, a song about Donald Campbell, who died while trying to set a speed record on water. The song inspired an effort to recover both Campbell's body and the "Bluebird K7," the boat which Campbell crashed in, from the water. The recovery was finally undertaken in 2001, and both Steve Hogarth and Steve Rothery were invited.
What followed was a string of albums and events that saw Marillion struggling to find their place in the music business. This Strange Engine was released in 1997 with little promotion from their new label Castle Records, and the band could not afford to make tour stops in the United States. Luckily, their dedicated US fan base decided to solve the problem by raising some $60,000 themselves online to give to the band to come to the US. The band's loyal fanbase (combined with the Internet) would eventually become vital to the band's existence.
The band's tenth album Radiation saw the band taking a different approach and was received by fans with mixed reactions.
marillion.com was released the following year and showed some progression in the new direction. The band, still unhappy with their record label situation, decided that it would be trying a radical experiment by asking their fans if they would help fund the recording of the next album by pre-ordering it before recording even started. They result was over 12,000 pre-orders which raised enough money to record and release Anoraknophobia in 2001. The band was able to strike a deal with EMI to also help distribute the album. This allowed Marillion to retain all the rights to their music while enjoying commercial distribution.
The success of Anoraknophobia allowed the band to start recording their next album, but they decided to leverage their fanbase once again to help raise money towards marketing and promotion of a new album. The band put up the album for pre-order in mid-production. This time fans responded by pre-ordering 18,000 copies.
Marbles was released in 2004 with a 2-CD version that is only available at Marillion's website - kind of a 'thank-you' gesture to the 18,000+ fans who pre-ordered it, and as even a further thanks to the fans, their names were credited in the sleeve notes (this 'thank you' to the fans also occurred with the previous album, Anoraknophobia).
Marillion in 2007, left to right: Steve Rothery, Steve Hogarth, Pete Trewavas (front row), Mark Kelly, Ian Mosley (back row)
The band released the singles "You're Gone" and "Don't Hurt Yourself", both of which reached the UK Chart in the Top 10 and Top 20 respectively. Following this, they released a download-only single, "The Damage (live)", recorded at the band's sell-out gig at the London Astoria. It was the highest new entry in the new UK download chart at number 2. All of this has succeeded in putting the band back in the public consciousness, making the campaign a success. Marillion continued to tour throughout 2005 playing several summer festivals and embarking on acoustic tours of both Europe and the United States, followed up by the "Not Quite Christmas Tour" of Europe throughout the end of 2005.
A new DVD, Colours and Sound, was released in Feb 2006, documenting the creation, promotion, release, and subsequent European tour in support of the album Marbles.
April 2007 saw Marillion release their fourteenth studio album Somewhere Else, their first album in 10 years to make the UK Top #30. The success of the album was further underscored by that of the download-only single See it Like a Baby, making UK #45 (March 2007) and the traditional CD release of Thankyou Whoever You Are / Most Toys, which made UK#15 and #6 in Holland during June 2007.
Happiness Is the Road, released in October 2008, again featured a pre-order "deluxe edition" with a list of the fans who bought in advance, and a more straightforward regular release. It is another double album, with the first disc (based around a concept) slated for a wider general release in 2009, and the second (consisting of the other songs that aren't part of the theme) only available from their website. Before the album's release, on 9th September 2008, Marillion achieved a world first by pre-releasing their own album via P2P networks themselves. Upon attempting to play the downloaded files, users were shown a video from the band explaining why they had taken this route. Downloaders were then able to opt to purchase the album at a user-defined price or select to receive DRM-free files for free, in exchange for an email address. The band explained that although they did not support piracy, they realised their music would inevitably be shared in this manner anyway, and wanted to attempt to engage with p2p users and make the best of a bad situation.
The band's most recent release (2 October 2009) is an acoustic album featuring new studio arrangements of previously released tracks entitled Less Is More.